For many years, J&J’s baby products were the jewel in the company crown. They were the gold standard for all baby/kid’s personal health and grooming products and raked in billions of dollars in sales for the company each year. But now, circa 2019, this once-mighty giant has fallen. In recent years, J&J has even been forced to “reinvent” its baby/kids care line after falling out of favor with millennial moms and dads.
Rewind for a minute back to the 90s – the formative years of my childhood, when J&J’s “No More Tears” shampoo was the standard. For a good chunk of that time, my father actually worked at J&J (don’t ask me exactly what he did, I think it had nothing to do with these products, though). As a perk of being an employee, we were able to purchase these “golden” J&J products at a significant discount. Because, of course, what young family wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity to save some money and still get (what we believed) were quality products? As a result, my childhood was filled with all-things J&J: Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages, No More Tears shampoo, No More Tangles and so on. In fact, my family became so used to the J&J brand that even after my father moved on from that job, we continued to purchase J&J products almost exclusively, even up through my adolescent years when we purchased a lot of Neutrogena products specifically because J&J owned them.
(Disclaimer: As of 2019 my father has not worked at J&J for around 20ish years and is retired.)
Fast forward back to 2019. J&J has found itself in hot water in recent years due to concerns about talc, Formaldehyde, asbestos, and other harmful chemicals in their baby/kids’ products. Not only that, but the company’s once-golden kids’ products have been falling out of favor with millennial moms for years for a number of reasons. Last year, the company even revamped their entire line of products in an attempt to appeal to millennial moms, generally by promoting transparency and a lack of dyes, sulfates and other chemicals. They have even diminished/phased out the “No More Tears” shampoo branding, which was once iconic.
Since I am expecting a little one in the next few months, I’ve been educating myself about this world. Honestly, if I didn’t work at ACFW, I may have just defaulted back to J&J products since that’s what I know from my youth and I likely may not have known any different. But now, the answer isn’t as clear.
Interestingly, I consulted a close friend, another millennial mom with a young child, while putting together my baby registry. Since she is not in the same line of work as me, it was very interesting to hear her take on J&J products as something of an “outsider.” It seemed to be indicative of the attitude of many young parents.
“Don’t powder your baby at all,” she said in reference to baby powder (semi-paraphrased). “There are concerns now about the baby inhaling the powder. I know that used to be a thing, but just don’t do it.”
(Yes, there are other “baby powders” available on the shelf, but J&J has long dominated this space.)
“I would also stay away from all J&J products,” she also said (again, semi-paraphrasing). “There are so many concerns about chemicals in those products now. I like to use Honest Company for my child.”
Well, she’s not the only one. It seems like The Honest Company has become super popular among millennials since it promotes transparency, an all-natural/chemical free approach, and has just the cutest prints on their diapers. Their products are also competitively priced in comparison to J&J and others, so for many parents it’s a no-brainer.
Knowing what I know now, I would absolutely never purchase any J&J products for my child. Even though, admittedly, part of me still feels somewhat strange about this stance due to my lengthy, personal relationship with the products (I turned out just fine!). In fact, it was certainly an interesting conversation to explain to my mother that I didn’t want her to use any of these products with my child. Not only has it been a little while since she has had young children of her own, but she still continues to believe in the brand. Telling her (and my father) to stay away from J&J almost felt like a betrayal.
Even more fun? Receiving a collection of J&J baby bath products from a close family member as a baby shower gift, likely as a nod to my family’s personal history with the brand. I didn’t exactly want to be rude since it was a gift, but, well, I also don’t want to expose my young child to potentially harmful chemicals. And neither would any mom or dad. Millennials aren’t cool with J&J, and for good reason. If the movement away from these potentially harmful products continues, J&J (and other large companies) may finally start listening to parents about what we really want for our kids: products that aren’t going to cause harm. Because health matters more than profit.
– Amanda Billo
Digital Outreach, A Case for Women